Doncaster Knights and Steve Lloyd proud to fly the flag for Yorkshire
Doncaster Knights president Steve Lloyd says it is the club’s duty to fight for all of Yorkshire so that eventually the county has its “rightful” representation in the Premiership – even if it is not themselves who claim it.
Doncaster are now the region’s only side in the top two divisions after Championship rivals Yorkshire Carnegie were relegated this season.
Rotherham Titans, who, like Carnegie, did once grace the Premiership, were also demoted but into the fourth tier illustrating the size of their worrying freefall.
With the sport still in shutdown due to coronavirus and Championship clubs already hit with reduced RFU funding for 2020-21 and beyond, it is hard to envisage how the likes of Doncaster will ever be able to even gain promotion let alone stay among the elite.
The vast differences in financial funding received by Premiership clubs has traditionally proved problematic for those with such ambitions and there is constant speculation that it will eventually become a closed shop.
Lloyd – who has taken over as the Championship Clubs Committee chairman ahead of 2020-21 – said: “You have to have the rations that everyone else has up there for it to work.
“I’ve always said there shouldn’t be a lack of funding to the upcoming club: there should be a golden hello.
“Will we fight the closure (of promotion) if it’s mooted again?
“Yes we will. We’ll constantly fight that.
“I cannot sit and accept the closure of the Premiership either now or even more so for the future.
“The moment that’s allowed to happen, I’m saying I’m happy with that forever that Yorkshire will not have a Premiership side.
“That can’t happen. And I don’t care who it is. We don’t know what’s going to happen 10, 20 years down the line.
“The fact is Yorkshire should – and deserves to – have a Premiership side and it would undoubtedly be good for rugby as a whole in the country if it did.”
Doncaster have never reached the top-flight before but, backed by Lloyd and fellow benefactor Tony De Mulder, have been promoted through the leagues to establish themselves in the Championship where they reached the promotion decider in 2016.
He continued: “It’s always been in our minds – particularly now that Carnegie have gone down –that we sit there as the only Yorkshire side in the top two divisions.
“We’re very conscious of that and want to play that role responsibly.
“Our focus, my focus and Tony’s focus is not just on Doncaster Knights or Doncaster the club – it’s rugby in Yorkshire as well.
“It’s very important we take that on board. Rugby is going to change dramatically.
“We want to see Yorkshire in its rightful place as one of the leading lights in rugby; it’s got more rugby clubs than any other county in England and tremendous support throughout.
“If you look at the alumni from Yorkshire over the years we’ve had some great players who have gone on to play for England and it’s a hotbed of rugby throughout,” he said.
“We want to play our role in that. We don’t want to steal the thunder from others. We want to share the thunder with them.
“We want to create a Yorkshire rugby attitude.”
The Knights’ Academy, which links with Doncaster College, has proved a real success and offers players a pathway which the club is continually developing.
The young side won promotion to the third tier of BUCS this year.
But Lloyd added: “Rugby across the world is being found out in terms of its lack of financial prudence and prospects.
“People are now running around like headless chickens worried about the future financially and rightly so.
“The only way for us to do it is to grow our own like this.
“Let’s get back to what got us all involved in the game and why we loved it.
“We have to return to that, not just some sort of elitist attitude of who’s got the money to put in to get to the top and even then can’t afford to be there.
“I think it really has got to happen and not just be run by people focusing on balance sheets and profit and loss but to actually say what is it that makes rugby tick.”